Henry's Luis Suarez Clause Stance Demonstrates New Powerful Liverpool Mindset

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2014


Liverpool owner John W. Henry is in the headlines today following comments over the weekend regarding Luis Suarez's infamous buyout clause last summer.

Media outlets are widely reporting headlines similar to "Henry: We ignored Suarez clause"—such as RTE, Irish Independent, The Express and ESPN.  

Of course, as with all media reports, it's important to look beyond the sensationalist headline, especially in this instance, given that Henry does not use the word "ignore" at any stage.



Henry was speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Saturday, and the quotes were transcribed by Liverpool supporter Dave Philips on twitter. Those quotes were than copied by media outlets without attribution—just with added sensationalist headlines in most instances.


Photo of the panel "Ownership Perspective: Managing Transitions" #SSAC14 pic.twitter.com/rwSEQR7GJJ

— Linda Pizzuti (@Linda_Pizzuti) March 1, 2014


The actual quotes, as per Philips, are:

He [Suarez] had a buyout clause of £40m. Arsenal, one of our prime rivals – this year we’re tied for 2nd … we’re actually 2nd because of GD [goal difference].

They offered £40m+£1. What we’ve found ... is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England – actually, in world football.

It doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide he’s leaving.

We sold a player, Fernando Torres, for £50m, that we did not want to sell, we were forced to.

Since apparently these contracts don’t seem to hold, we took the position that we’re just not selling.

The key part being the final word there on the stance that Liverpool and owners FSG took.



Most media have taken this as an admission from Henry that the clause existed, but that Liverpool opted to ignore it.

However, that would contradict what the Professional Footballer's Association found after they looked over the contract in the summer. "Professional Footballers' Association chief Gordon Taylor says Luis Suarez's contract does NOT require Liverpool to sell him if they receive a bid of £40m," as per The Mirror.

So clearly, the clause is still pretty unclear.

It appears that some sort of clause did exist but that it was fairly ambiguous to say the least. But that's nothing we didn't already know.

The release clause was likely implied but not explicitly detailed, so the "clause" was effectively meaningless and Henry knew it.


Suarez's clause was tested by various lawyers & the PFA. John Henry has either been misquoted or not got his own wording right.

— Tony Barrett (@TonyBarretTimes) March 3, 2014



Henry's comments too may not need to be taken as literal either, especially given the context and complicated nature of the clause.

The principal owner of Liverpool was steadfast when Suarez attempted to engineer a move away in the summer; "“We are not going to sell Luis," " It is unequivocal, but that doesn’t seem to slow them [Arsenal] down so I can’t wait to see what the next bid is," "Whatever the bid is, we won’t sell him"—as per The Telegraph.

Henry showed impressive leadership and put the club's best interests first.


Lessons Learned

Clearly too, Henry feels that FSG had their fingers burnt by Fernando Torres' controversial departure just a few months after their purchase of the club.

The subsequent purchase of Andy Carroll for £35 million and huge transfer failings under then-director of football Damien Comolli were cast aside by the formation of the club's "transfer committee" and paved the way for a more frugal and economically savvy Liverpool.

Henry alluded to the steep learning curve in his comments prior to those directly about Suarez, saying "I don’t think we were really prepared for buying a team in the English Premier League"—as per Philips.

FSG made mistakes and Liverpool suffered from them, but Henry has shown and continues to show that those same mistakes will not be made again.

Liverpool are no longer a club that others can bully in the transfer market; they emanate strong leadership from the top.


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